by Antonia Anderson.
Amsterdam is a city of cyclists, with twice as many bicycles as cars on the road. You’d be hard-pressed to find a Dutch person who doesn’t own a bicycle. With an abundance of bike-only lanes and special traffic lights, cycling through Amsterdam is safe and easy for visitors of all sorts. Whether you’re travelling solo, sight-seeing with a group, or have a toddler in tow, you’ll relish the leisurely experience of exploring this colourful city by bicycle.
Renting a Bicycle
You can rent a bicycle for around 13 euros per day, or more cheaply if you rent by the week. One popular and reliable rental company is Damstraat Rent-a-Bike, which offers everything from traditional Dutch cruisers to modern hybrids and even tandems. Most rental shops are glad to offer friendly advice about the best routes, and will also give you a free map of Amsterdam, although it’s worth paying 4 euros for the more comprehensive map Amsterdam op de fiets (“Amsterdam on the bike”), which you can purchase at any Tourist Office.
Cycling Inside the City
If you’re new to Amsterdam and want to get a feel for the city’s culture and atmosphere, point your handlebars towards Albert Cuyp Market. This century-old shoppers’ paradise is the largest of Amsterdam’s twenty-six open-air markets, with nearly 300 vending stalls. Park your bicycle on the outskirts and go for a treasure hunt by foot. If you get peckish, try some local flavours; fresh farmer’s produce, cheese, chocolate, and pastries are sold in abundance. You can come away from this bustling market with antiques, local art, books, clothing, bedding, cosmetics, jewellery and any number of whimsical items. Load your panniers with supplies and souvenirs.
Once you’re comfortable with the main part of the city, cycle through the less tourist-trampled areas, such de Negen Straatjes, or “Nine Little Streets,” a smorgasbord of charming cafes, high-end boutiques and quaint shops selling everything from handmade soap to designer clothing and vintage accessories. Losing yourself among the cobbled paths of this original district is a delicious way to spend an afternoon. Don’t miss the quirky spectacles museum.
Amsterdam has over 2000 bridges, so you won’t be able to cycle over all of them in a single day! However, if you start with the famous Bridge of 15 Bridges, you’ll be rewarded with a romantic view of 2 intersecting canals and 14 bridges. Late afternoon is a rewarding time for a leisurely bike ride over Amsterdam bridges, as you can admire the way the changing sunlight plays over graceful stone arches, weathered wooden planks, and peaceful canals.
Cycling Outside the City
In less than half an hour, you can leave the urban scene behind and explore the picturesque landscape of rural Amsterdam. Cycle through pastures and over canals with a backdrop of windmills against wide-open skies. For a full-day experience of fun and discovery, head south to Amsterdam Bos, or “Amsterdam Forest,” criss-crossed by more than 30 miles of well-maintained cycling paths. The entire park is 13 feet below sea level, and was constructed by humans on reclaimed land. Here you can visit the Geitenboderij–Goat Farm–for a taste of locally-produced cheese and other dairy products made from goat’s milk. Children will enjoy the petting zoo. If you’re visiting in the summer, check the performance schedule for the park’s open air theater.
The longer you explore Amsterdam by bicycle, the more secret city corners and remote countryside paradises you’ll discover. The pleasure of getting to know Amsterdam by bicycle comes from the unexpected, the unpredictable and the unforgettable. If you’re new to bicycle touring, Amsterdam is a great place to start. Once you’ve spent a few days riding around, you won’t want to travel any other way.